This disc should come with one of those “you must be this tall to ride” amusement park signs: The fifth studio album from My Morning Jacket roars through myriad peaks, dips, and loop-de-loops in 55 minutes. Sussing out who might (or might not) be ready for its highly variegated program is a tough call. A cartoon character with an outstretched paw is as good a yardstick as any.
Fans firmly attached to the dreamy, stoner-rock side of MMJ may react violently to “Highly Suspicious”. The most radical departure on a record rife with them, this metallic funk workout recalls Prince (right down to a mischievous giggle) circa Sign ‘O’ The Times, or Beck’s Midnight Vultures. Listeners still reeling from frontman Jim James’ keening falsetto on the soulful, titular opening cut could start scrambling for the exits.
They shouldn’t. Odds are there’s something they’ll enjoy more ahead. With its steel guitar and discrete strings, “Sec Walking” ranks among the closest My Morning Jacket has gotten to straight-up country territory. Pounding piano and big drum sounds render “Aluminum Park” a lighter-waving anthem a la “Born To Run” or “All The Young Dudes”. The succinct “Two Halves”, a jaunty pop-rocker with humorous lyrics about reconciling youth and maturity, could be swapped out with almost any cut on the Minus 5’s Down With Wilco without anyone immediately noticing…even Scott McCaughey.
Co-produced by Jim James and Joe Chiccarelli (the Shins, White Stripes), Evil Urges was recorded in New York City and seems to suffer from some of the ADD and schizophrenia that sudden immersion in Manhattan can induce. Recurring lyrical themes of moral conflict (“I’m Amazed”, the sexy bookworm send-up “Librarian”) impart much-needed coherence, as does more traditional MMJ fare such as the swirling “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Part 1”.
Ultimately, this disc is a fun diversion, but one with so many bumps and sudden sharp turns, even enthusiasts may not clamor back on again as quickly as they anticipated.